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Marble Arch Cave Formation Decision Time

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Restoration of Cuilcagh Mountain Park

Image of Cuilcagh - Peat cuttingIn 1989 a period of unexpected flooding in the Marble Arch Caves prompted concern about the safety of visitors and the future of the caves as a tourist attraction. The cause of the flooding was investigated and traced to changes in the flow of water off the Cuilcagh Mountain. Commercial peat cutting, sheep over-grazing, uncontrolled burning of vegetation and use of quad motor bikes were all contributing to the change.

The blanket bog, which covers the slopes of the Cuilcagh Montain was losing its sponge like quality to hold water and release it slowly into the system. The most serious problem was mechanised peat cutting. Manual cutting has gone on for many years without causing great damage. However a machine could cut in a day as much turf as had previously been cut in a year. Drainage channels were cut to dry out the peat before harvesting. Instead of the water soaking into the peat, it was going into the drains and then more quickly into the rivers. The peatland habitat was also being lost.

Image of Cuilcagh - Farm MachineryIn 1998 Fermanagh District Council set up the Cuilcagh Mountain Park. The aim was to protect unaffected areas of the blanket bog and increase awareness of this rare habitat. In the Park peat cutting has been stopped and more than1200 small dams were put into the drains to build up the water levels in the bog.

There is now a weir upstream of the Marble Arch caves and sophisticated measuring equipment warns of increasing water levels, ensuring the safety of visitors to the caves.

Many Government bodies conservation groups and academics have had to work together to repair the damage to the blanket bog and protect it for the future. The visitor's centre at the Marble Arch caves has been devloped to include displays on the story of the Cuilcagh and its restoration.

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